The Forgotten Centre for Black Culture & Art in New York City

In 2021, The Art Students League of New York, in partnership with the Romare Bearden Foundation, presented Creating Community. Cinque Gallery Artists. The exhibition was the first introductory survey to focus on Cinque Gallery, the innovative non-profit artists’ space dedicated to promoting the achievements of Black artists from its founding in 1969 until its closure in 2004. The exhibition celebrated a diverse selection of late twentieth century and contemporary artists who participated in this pioneering collaborative enterprise and highlights the interconnected histories of the artists of Cinque Gallery and The Art Students League.

Founded by Black Artists, For Black Artists

Founded in 1969 by three master League artists, Romare Bearden (1911 – 1988), Ernest Crichlow (1914 – 2005), and Norman Lewis (1909 – 1979), Cinque Gallery was created to “provide a place where the works of unknown, and neglected artists of talent…” primarily minority artists “would not only be shown but nurtured and developed.” (Excerpts. 1969 Cinque Gallery by-laws) The artist-led, nonprofit space fostered a mutually supportive community of artists young and mature, exhibiting the work of new and established African American artists for nearly four decades. Relying on a series of volunteers, Cinque Gallery hosted solo, group, and touring exhibitions, presenting artwork by approximately 450 artists in its 35-year history and was known for its lively receptions and social events attracting writers, musicians, actors, and artists. Named after Joseph Cinqué, the leader of the Amistad slave ship mutiny of the 1830s, the Gallery was initially located in a space offered by Joseph Papp’s New York Public Theatre. Cinque then later moved to various venues, before finally re-locating in 1988 to 560 Broadway in Soho, where it remained until its closing in 2004.

Download the Full Exhibition Catalogue

Creating Community. Cinque Gallery Artists is organized by guest curator and arts administrator Susan Stedman, a long-time Cinque Gallery associate and chronicler, alongside artist, educator, and Cinque’s first artist in residence, Nanette Carter. The exhibition features paintings, works on paper, photographs, sculptures, and archival documents drawn from loans and the League’s permanent collection, and is part of Stedman’s ongoing oral history project illuminating the achievements of several generations of artists. This exhibition features works by:

Charles Alston, Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Dawoud Bey, Camille Billops, Robert Blackburn. Betty Blayton-Taylor, Frank Bowling, Vivian Browne, Nanette Carter, Elizabeth Catlett-Mora, Edward Clark, Ernest Crichlow, Melvin Edwards, Tom Feelings, Sam Gilliam, Ray Grist. Cynthia Hawkins, Robin Holder, Bill Hutson, Mohammad Omar Khalil, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Whitfield Lovell, Alvin D. Loving, Richard Mayhew, Howard McCalebb, Norma Morgan, Otto Neals, Ademola Olugebefola, Debra Priestly, Mavis Pusey, Ann Tanksley, Mildred Thompson, Charles White, Ben Wigfall,  Frank Wimberley, Hale Woodruff.

Discover Their Stories

In addition to the exhibition, The League produced interviews with surviving Cinque artists all interviewed by artist Nanette Carter. The playlist with artists Ray Grist, Robin Holder, Otto Neals, and Frank Wimberley are available below.

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